Bengalureans who reached private hospitals on Thursday were greeted by long queues, closed gates and barricades at the entrances.
With doctors in private hospitals shutting down Out Patient Departments in protest against the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Amendment Bill, which provides for capping of hospital fees, imprisonment of doctors in case of negligence, and grievance redressal committees, those in need of medical care are left in the lurch.
People say that while they understand the doctors' point of view and their cause of concern, they feel that doctors must not forget their basic responsibility towards those who need medical care. Mohammed Ruman, an employee of Tesco, is undergoing treatment for a shoulder injury and was scheduled to undergo surgery on Thursday but the operation was postponed due to the ongoing strike. "I underwent all the tests required before the surgery but the doctor suddenly said that it had to postponed because of the strike. I am in pain and I was in a state of shock when the doctor told me that the surgery couldn't be performed," rues Mohammed Ruman.
The indefinite strike has upset a lot of Bengalureans like Sushma Srinivas, a homemaker. She feels the ongoing scuffle between the doctors and the government officials are affecting the public. "The strike is causing a lot trouble to the public. Not everybody can go to the emergency to address their medical issue. The services at government hospitals aren't up to the required standards," says Sushma.
The strike is a cause of concern for those who have aged parents. Sharing her experience, Pavithra Vijayaraghavan, a business consultant, who had taken her ailing mother to the hospital, says that she was one among the few lucky ones who managed to meet the doctor. "I was apprehensive if my mother would be able to consult the doctor. She's over 70 years old and people who have aged parents cannot wait. The doctors and the government must find a more proactive way of sorting out the present crisis rather than inconveniencing the public," reasons Pavithra.
The doctors on their part are miffed with what they call draconian provisions in the bill and demand that the government understand the problems faced by them. Dr Naresh Bhat, Chief of Medical Services, Aster CMI, points out that good quality healthcare cannot be subsidised to incur a loss. "Why should the government single out only medical practitioners when it comes to charging a fee? The same law must be applied to people from all professions. How can a doctor with three months experience and another with 30 years experience be equated when it comes to the professional fee," wonders Dr Naresh. He states that private hospitals cannot subsidise bills or waive off charges because nothing comes free for them from the government.
Sharing her perspective, Dr Prathima Reddy, a gynecologist and director of Fortis La Femme Hospital, says "Only the routine outpatient care has been closed. The emergency is open and women who come in for labour will not be denied treatment. We share a good relationship with our patients, some of who have been coming to us for years. But we strongly oppose some of the provisions in the bill that are unfair to private doctors."